7 Employee Onboarding Challenges Any Company Can Face — and Overcome

There’s no escaping employee onboarding challenges, but those who understand them have the greatest opportunity to prepare for onboarding success.


No matter how experienced they are, human resource teams and hiring managers can face frustrating onboarding challenges alongside new employees. It seems that most companies in that boat struggle with creating and maintaining a healthy onboarding process.

It’s helpful to understand what may cause friction during the onboarding process with new hires. Here we’ll address 7 most common challenges in the onboarding experience so you can prepare in advance for mutual success.

1. Encouraging employee engagement during the onboarding experience

In a perfect world, new employees would receive uninterrupted time and training until they could confidently step into their roles. However, with so many other responsibilities clamoring for attention, HR’s focus may be pulled away from employee onboarding. This challenge is prevalent with on-site new hires but is especially an issue during remote onboarding. If HR, the hiring manager, and supporting managers are preoccupied with high-priority projects and deadlines, the new hire can fall through the cracks. That can set the wrong tone with a new team member. They may begin feeling isolated, unsupported, and removed from a new workplace where they have yet to build bonds.

2. Handling employee training

Lack of planning and accountability can cause a poor onboarding experience that has long-lasting effects on the employee. If there’s no set training agenda, no set training process oversight, and a lack of standardization, the company is essentially setting the new hire up to fail. That may not bode well for employee morale, overall employee satisfaction, and ultimate new hire retention.

3. Keeping the employee experience top of mind

Be mindful of your new employee’s first impressions of how life will be at work. For instance, it’s easy to immediately pile forms, an employee handbook, and other materials on them with a simple, “Read and sign these.” It’s also a bad start to the employee onboarding process.

Don’t make new hires wonder why HR would drown them in paperwork and assignments before they’ve even met their team members or familiarized themselves with the company culture. Put yourself in their shoes for every step of this important stage of the employee journey.

4. Gathering quality feedback

Some employers tout their commitment to a great onboarding process yet neglect to take the time and opportunities to improve on it. Gathering the intel they’d need to improve their process alone can be perceived as a challenge. And then they’d have to act on that intel.

But others do take time to continuously assess the different facets of their onboarding process. And they don’t see the same challenge. Instead they build the ability to gather meaningful feedback into their process. They use such methods as short employee surveys, brief check-ins, interviews, and on-the-spot questions.

Soliciting feedback is one of the easiest, most effective ways to gain valuable insights into what is and isn’t working. Communicate with the people who go through your onboarding process. Not asking recent hires’ opinions about new hire paperwork, training, follow-up, and other aspects is a missed opportunity. Many of the most common onboarding challenges could be quickly and easily overcome by simply addressing this in advance.

5. Setting clear, appropriate expectations

Clearly set goals are essential for executing an effective onboarding process, yet many onboarding plans don’t include them. Others may set vague, unclear expectations that serve no useful purpose. If a new hire doesn’t understand what they should be doing, they can feel unproductive and disconnected from company goals. Over time, these feelings can lead to low productivity, disinterest, and increased employee turnover.

6. Scheduling productive check-ins

Consistency is key for a successful onboarding process, especially considering it can take months for any given new hire to complete it. Scheduled check-ins with the new employee can help promote a smooth transition into the role. While managers and HR professionals may know this, the challenge becomes arranging routine times to meet amid other pressing job responsibilities. It’s worth being systematic and dependable about it, though. Inconsistency can leave a new employee feeling undervalued, under-supported, and somewhat adrift.

7. Pacing for maximum absorption of information

Most roles require grasping key information to perform them well. Employees need to be well-versed in their positions, but they can’t be expected to learn everything in their 1st week. The onboarding process is a time for absorption and acclimation. Heaping everything about a job role onto a new hire at once won’t necessarily ramp them up quickly. In fact, it could do the opposite. Some may even become so overwhelmed, they don’t retain anything.

Here, the employee onboarding challenge becomes pacing. Pacing in itself may sound simple. But it’s entirely individual in nature. Therefore effective pacing requires attentiveness to an individual employee’s learning style, strengths, vulnerabilities, and natural aptitudes. It also demands patience on the part of their direct manager and others involved in the day-to-day processes.

Preparing for onboarding challenges is preparing for success

Those who understand the common challenges to employee onboarding processes have the greatest opportunity to prepare. Not every manager, trainer, or HR team member involved in the onboarding process will necessarily have all the onboarding solutions or ideal attributes. Don’t let that fact present additional challenges. Instead, plan, strategize, and delegate in advance as a team to develop and execute a successful onboarding experience for all. Also consider onboarding software solutions that can automate tasks and free up HR time for onboarding priorities.

For more on the road to your own success, count on HR and business management tips, tools, and resources at Workest by Zenefits.

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